Huey Lewis takes his career in stride
Huey Lewis and the News will perform at the Paramount on Oct. 21. | Courtesy of the Paramount
Huey Lewis and The News/Joe Cocker
7 p.m., Aug. 10
Ravinia Festival, 200 Ravinia Park Road, Highland Park
Updated: April 9, 2013 10:11AM
For a hard-working, hard-core harmonica player from Montana, playing the plush surroundings of Highland Park’s Ravinia Festival might cause its share of culture shock.
But not for Huey Lewis… or his News.
“It’s true that we used to be a beer and hot dog band, and now we are hanging out with the wine and cheese set, but I like the wine and cheese set,” chuckles Lewis during a recent interview. “First of all, they are more my age. They are a little quieter. They like to sit down. Those people are just fine with me now.”
Indeed, the soulful ’80s band that secured its place in pop rock history with hits such as “The Power of Love” and “The Heart of Rock & Roll” seems to have adjusted quite nicely to the ever-complex music industry of 2012. Lewis and his 11-piece band are touring alongside rock legend Joe Cocker on a summer road trip that will take them across the country through the end of August, including a stop at Ravinia on Aug. 10.
“I think the (concert) promoter wanted two good-looking guys who sing like birds, and thought instantly of Huey Lewis and Joe Cocker,” laughs Lewis. “But seriously, I would say we sound better than we ever have, if that’s possible in my ripe old age.”
Lewis was “30 years old with $300 to my name” when he and his bluesy cohorts burst onto the pop music scene, and played the music industry just as smart as anyone back in the 1980s.
“I was no spring chicken when I started,” says Lewis, who now calls the mountains of Montana home. “And let’s be honest — we were producing our own records. We were a pop band and we needed a hit. I make no apologies. In fact, what we did back then is something I am extremely proud of. The fact is that back then, if you didn’t have a Top 20 song, you didn’t get a record. It was a different day. If we were just starting out in 2012, I think [Huey Lewis and The News] would be more of a jam band. No matter who you are, you do what you have to do to keep your band alive and just try to chisel out a living.”
In a world with an ever-shortening attention span, Lewis says he has found a way to stay in front of diehard fans and casual listeners thanks to a series of much thought-out choices.
“The goal from the very beginning was to create a career where we would play music and people would show up,” he says. “Every choice I have ever made since then has been based on the challenge of what could be created. I haven’t done ‘Dancing with the Stars’ or ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ because it doesn’t speak to me creatively. Yet, I did ‘Chicago’ on Broadway. I mean, how do you say no to a great challenge like that? Conventionally, I guess I sometimes feel I should do more and be more of a celebrity, but it’s just not me.”
While the 2010 release of “Soulsville” met some sour sales figures (“we sold nine copies,” Lewis notes), Lewis stays true to his claims that the record included some of the group’s finest work. These days, Lewis says he and his band have started writing some new music while out on the road and even expect to go into the studio to do some recording when the tour is done.
But not before they stop in one of their favorite towns.
“We love Chicago,” says Lewis. “It’s an unsentimental town. You have to have substance in Chicago. I like that — a lot.”